Will the NPPF if introduced really help the construction industry or just those on the periphery?

20/09/2011

in Expert Articles, NPPF, Opinion

I know of many people who will be affected by the fact that lawyers and consultants will be sapping up the lions’ share of available money from the building process at a time when budgets are tight, this equals ongoing job losses to those ‘on the ground’ as well as a lack of sustainable growth outside large conurbations.

I am a semi retired civil engineer. I worked on retaining structures and still occasionally consult in the UK.

I am in the development industry and when working usually do so alongside specialist small teams.

A huge proportion of the UK development industry, are small and financially fragile businesses. Many have gone a long way in implementing truly sustainable systems into construction on a local level, often in liaison with planners, which work with the local landscape and community needs.

These small businesses, often individuals have introduced bespoke sustainable contributions into design and build enabling a new layer of finance to enter the industry. It is still very early days, but innovation and adoption of using more traditional, often ancient techniques was allowing for some incredible new projects to be built, harmonious with the landscape into which they were introduced.

Many of those involved in the industry are actually far removed from the NPPF debate. They work hard, 7am starts, no iphone or twitter accounts and have little time at the end of the day to do anything more than eat, watch TV for a bit and then go to bed. The influence assumed by the associations who purport to uphold their interests and state that the draft NPPF is an excellent thing, in reality does not reflect the direct opinion of the majority of those in the industry. This is not new and virtually all associations linking themselves to the industry have seen dramatic declines in membership for several years as they drift further to edge of it. Some support from the big names, often international corporations, keeps these groups going and in doing so make these groups appear to be their personal lobby voice, even if they are not.

The vehemence of the ‘pro’ NPPF groups against those who have read, digested the draft on offer (and have realised it cannot do what it states it wishes to) unwittingly alienates them from those they deem to help, those who actually do the work and provide a percentage for them to glean from, those who will pay the price for their stupid vitriol – builders, contractors and landscapers.

I have watched a rapid increase in fear with regards the NPPF debate amongst builders and others who work in the development industry, building site skips now containing ‘the Telegraph’ and other papers following the NPPF furore, there is a dawning realisation that if the draft NPPF is adopted the resulting confusion will delay progress, halt construction and lead to job losses, unless a compromise is sought.

I enjoyed a beer with a bricklayer just last night, his comment is similar to many I have heard, but the difference is that he works for a national outfit;

‘’This is just another delaying tactic; we have been threatened with losing our jobs for almost 2 years now, we have to work longer for less.’’

He may not be correct in his cynical assumptions, but the blame being apportioned to the government listening to the financiers and investors into their own industry and pushing the practitioners to work harder and for less is a conclusion that the Greg Clark and his fan club can ill afford.

In terms of stimulating economic growth the NPPF may well do so, but this money flow will disappear into a stagnant middle tier, this is not even sustainable growth. Thus a monumental own goal by the ‘pro NPPF’ lobby who bizarrely actually include government themselves, is scored.

The ‘skills’ and ‘brains’ exodus will continue, profiting countries that welcome UK expats, and social housing or dealing with the homeless situation will become a problem for future generations.

The NPPF is a great platform to work from, it would not take much to provide a document of worth, the information to do this is readily available (a decent draft by Andrew Lainton has actually been written). If a stubbornness to refuse to engage continues I fear the revolt against those who refuse to listen will include those at the ‘pit face’ of the construction industry themselves – a group of people I work alongside on occasion, I am fond of, but know are not the kind of people you want as enemies.

 

Jamie Flattery P.Eng

Semi retired civil engineer. Canadian / UK citizen. Dry stone structures & walling enthuiast.

Follow Jamie on Twitter: @JFlattery

 

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